“The condition of a bad painter and a bad actor is worse than that of a bad writer.”
—Denis Diderot, 1767
I’ve been running around like a maniac and am closer to a nervous breakdown than ever before, while debating which gig to concentrate on:
1. Bill Frisell with the Bad Plus or a friend’s 30th birthday party.
2. The Instant Composers Pool Orchestra or a party for a friend who recently turned 65.
3. Keiji Haino or a celebration for the collected poems of Joe Ceravolo at the Poetry Project.
4. A home-cooked French meal or the Tri-Centric Orchestra playing compositions by Jason Hwang and Nicole Mitchell.
1: I do both. Frisell and the Plus romped and waltzed through an enjoyable set consisting of Paul Motian tunes, “Body and Soul,” Sonny Rollins’s “No Moe,” Ornette Coleman’s “Turnaround,” some Monk, and Hank Williams’s “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” I don’t love all of Bill’s music, but I do love him and believe he ranks among the best guitarists, with his wide-ranging styles, textures, and sounds. Whether playing soft or loud he’s always relaxing, though not always “safe.” After the show we went to the party, where I chatted up various young artists and poets. I drank green tea vodka pretending it was just green tea, the oldest in attendance pretending I was the most grown up.
2: I hit ICPO sans Misha Mengelberg, who is in ill health, at Littlefield in Brooklyn. They played a 90-minute set consisting of Mengelberg tunes and arrangements in their inimitable inside/outside fashion. Yuko and I then dashed off to the party, where things were winding down by midnight, unlike the previous party where things were just getting started around then.
3. Haino won out, though it was tough because he played three nights. The first was a solo show at ISSUE Project Room. Its high ceilings and marble walls opened with his sounds. His vocals went from saintly/other-worldly to pure insanity, and from reverential high notes, wicked screams, and jumbled Japanese text to Tuvan-like throat singing. At one point he pressed a pickup mic against his chest and throat and, putting it inside his mouth, he created deep, guttural sounds. When he approached the electronics and turned on his amps the volume was piercing, and the set became primordial. He turned dials and swung his arms about like Prospero calling up the demons of hell. The set ended where it began, with sweet, high-pitched singing filling the space with peace. Night two at ISSUE with Tamio Shiraishi was another envelope-pushing event. Haino, who comes out of the traditions of Blue Cheer and Ayler, mostly played guitar and vocalized; Tamio played his usual singular, high-register shrills on alto, and vocalized while moving about the room. It was a true space(d) odyssey, which caused the remaining rosettes on ISSUE’s 300-foot ceiling to tremble in this arched marble church of noise worshippers. Night three, with Loren Connors at the Whitney, went from a dream-like beginning to a bit confusing, as Haino got up in the midst of Connors’s solo and started on his own. Connors stepped away as the volume increased, eventually re-entered, and the duo began. Haino sang broken Japanese and leaned more toward Connors’s guitar language. But the set melted together in spots, and both went away exhausted but satisfied.
Three nights of angelic, apocalyptic SOUND, inner- and outer-body experiences, a total collapse of the universe, and an incendiary bridge to the unknown created through well-disciplined chaos. If I were a worshipper I would worship Haino the god, but I am a believer in music so I can only believe in what I hear.
4. I took the dinner, which was superb.
A week later I caught Mat Maneri’s trio at Cornelia Street, after a lecture by James Hoff in Greenpoint on the subject of earworms—tunes that get stuck in your head and sometimes stay forever. One that lasted longest for me was the Beach Boys’s “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.”
In April, Roulette paid tribute to Yusef Lateef’s 92nd year on earth and his 75 years of music. It included three “classical” pieces for sax trio, string quartet, and solo piano, and a long duo set with percussionist Adam Rudolph.
After two visits to IHOP and a phone survey that bagged me a free short stack, the thrill is gone. Prices too high, food just fair, and leaving my apartment in the middle of the night if I get the munchies will probably never be an option. So I’m stuck in my little nest at 3:16 a.m. dreaming of a good bacon-and-egg sandwich, listening to the stereo and the rain simultaneously, while in my head fragments of the latest earworm, “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” play over and over. By this point my earworms have grown multiple heads.
This piece is dedicated to those who lost life and limb at the Boston Marathon in April. Will we ever have PEACE?